Ashridge is a country estate and stately home in Hertfordshire, England in the United Kingdom; part of the land stretches into Buckinghamshire and it is close to the Bedfordshire border. It is situated in the Chiltern Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, about 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Berkhamsted and 20 miles (32 km) northwest of London. Surrounding villages include Aldbury, Pitstone, Ivinghoe, Little Gaddesden, Nettleden, Frithsden and Potten End.
The estate comprises 5,000 acres (20 km2) of woodlands (known as Ashridge Forest), commons and chalk downland which supports a rich variety of wildlife. It also offers a good choice of waymarked walks through outstanding country. The estate is currently owned by the National Trust.
In 1283 Edmund son of Richard, Earl of Cornwall holders of Berkhamsted Castle (two and half miles away) founded a monastery at Ashridge, Hertfordshire. The monastery was built for a rector and twenty canons who formed, according to the sixteenth-century historian Polydore Vergil, "a new order not before seen in England, and called the Boni homines". It was finished in 1285.
At the foundation of the abbey the Earl of Cornwall donated, among other things, a phial of Christ's blood, in honour of which the convent adjacent to the abbey was founded. This relic was perhaps not so well known as the Holy Blood which the Earl of Cornwall donated to Hailes Abbey, but it proved fruitful for the abbey and convent. Pilgrims from all over Europe flocked to see the phial and the abbey grew quite wealthy as a result. One such visitor was King Edward I. In 1290 he held parliament at the abbey while he spent Christmas in Pitstone.
The last rector was Thomas Waterhouse, who surrendered the house to Henry VIII. The building ceased to be used as an abbey shortly afterwards. The suppressed college was granted first to the king's sister Mary Tudor, Queen of France, a daughter of Henry VII. It later became the private residence of the future queen Elizabeth I. It was here that she was arrested in 1554, under suspicion of treason. In 1604 the priory was acquired by Sir Thomas Egerton. A descendant of his, the Duke of Bridgewater, demolished the old buildings in the 1760s.
In 1604 the estate became the property of the Sir Thomas Egerton. Egerton's son, John Egerton, was created 1st Earl of Bridgewater on 27 May 1617. The estate was later redeveloped as the Bridgewater residence; in 1800 by Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater demolished most of the Priory, and the present house was constructed 1808–1814. The 3rd Duke of Bridgewater was buried in the Egerton family vault in Little Gaddesden Church, close to Ashridge. In 1848 the estate passed to the Earls Brownlow, another strand of the Egerton family, and then in 1921 it was split, with the land passing to the National Trust, while the house and garden was acquired by speculators.
** – Ashridge House – **
The 7th Earl of Bridgewater commissioned the architect James Wyatt to build the neo-Gothic Ashridge House as his home. Wyatt died in 1813 and the project was completed the following year by his nephew Jeffry Wyatt (later known as Sir Jeffry Wyatville). The present house is regarded as one of the finest examples of early Gothic Revival architecture and is now a Grade I listed building.
Ashridge house was built on the site of the 13th-Century priory building which had been demolished in 1800. Some parts of the old priory were incorporated into the house by James Wyatt, including the undercroft of the monastic refectory, featuring two aisles, seven bays and a rib-vaulted ceiling, which he repurposed as a beer cellar below the dining room and drawing room.
The mansion is built of ashlar faced with Totternhoe stone with a castellated parapet and low-pitched slate roofs. It features a variety of casement windows including pointed arch and ogee lights typical of the early Gothic Revival style. Before his untimely death, James Wyatt completed the north-facing front entrance and the central block, containing the state apartments and western courtyards. Jeffry Wyatt added private apartment blocks at an angle to the main building and an orangery with a turret in 1815–17. The main entrance features a projecting porte-cochère and octagonal turrets, added by Jeffry Wyatt c.1814.
Inside the mansion are a number of richly decorated state rooms; of the interior features, only the hall, the staircase tower and the chapel are Gothic in design. The high staircase hall features a stone stair with iron railing, surrounded by niches containing statues by Sir Richard Westmacott. At the centre of the fan-vaulted ceiling is a large dial connected to the weather vane on the roof which displays the current wind direction. The Brownlow Hall contains a giant frieze of the goddess Venus surrounded by putti with an armorial centrepiece and three early-Twentieth Century murals. Redecoration of the interiors was commissioned by Lady Marian Alford and executed in the neoclassical style in 1855–63 by Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt, including a replica of Guido Reni's Aurora ceiling and aedicular door surrounds. Among the alterations carried out after the conversion of the mansion into a college, the conservatory was altered by Clough Williams-Ellis in 1919 to form a dining-room. The boundary between Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire originally passed through the dining room, though the house is now entirely in Hertfordshire.
The house incorporates a Gothic Revival Chapel designed by James Wyatt, completed by Jeffry Wyatt in 1817. The most notable exterior feature of the chapel is its spire which was demolished in 1922 by Lord Brownlow as it had become structurally unsound. The spire which can be seen today is in fact a fibreglass replica which was erected in 1969. The chapel interior features a pair of Fourteenth-Century carved doors, fan-vaulted coving supporting a canted panelled ceiling; a set of carved oak choir stalls designed by Jeffry; and an array of Rayonnant lancet windows. The windows were originally fitted with stained glass panels depicting scenes from the Bible; the glass was imported by the 7th Earl from Germany, having been originally designed in the Sixteenth Century for Steinfeld Abbey and Mariawald Abbey. The glass was auctioned off at Sotheby's in 1928 and acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum. One glass panel featuring the Blessed Virgin was placed in the nearby Church of Ss Peter and Paul at Little Gaddesden; another, depicting St Peter was in Christ Church, Croydon in London. Beneath the chapel is a vaulted medieval wellhouse with a 224-foot (68 m) well.
Part of the estate became Ashridge Golf Club in 1932, and had Henry Cotton as its club professional in the late 1930s, including his most successful year, 1937. During the Second World War, the building and the lawn in front of it was used as a secondary site for Charing Cross Hospital. Outside the house stands the timber-frame and brick Fourteenth-Century Monks' Barn in the Monks' Garden. It was remodelled in 1816 by Jeffry Wyatt who added a covered walkway. In 1884 Mathew Digby Wyatt added the red brick Fern House. The house has housed the Ashridge Executive Education program, of Hult International Business School, since 1959.
** – Bridgewater Monument – **
On the approach to Ashridge visitor centre, you can’t miss this towering granite column which reaches high above the treetops of the Estate. The monument was built in 1832 in memory of the third Duke of Bridgewater who once lived in Ashridge house. As you walk around its York stone base, notice how the monument is dedicated to 'the father of inland navigation' because the duke became famous for building canals during the Industrial Revolution. It was built away from Ashridge House as his mother wanted "not to see or be reminded of my infernal son".
During weekends from April to October they open up the monument and invite you to take the challenge of climbing all 172 steps to the top. As you scale the winding steps, take time to feel the rough cold blocks of granite and peek through the windows as you leave the ground behind. When you reach the top you will be rewarded with beautiful views of Ashridge from above. Look out across rolling Chilterns countryside and see if you can spot Waddesdon Manor and Wendover Woods in the distance. On sunny days you might even be able to see as far as Canary Wharf in central London, over 30 miles away.
** – Wildlife – **
Ashridge is a spectacular place for spotting wildlife. So arm yourself with a pair of binoculars and a camera and come and see what you can find.
The fallow deer rut takes place around October when the woods resound to the noise of bucks trying to attract mates. Deer come from all over the Estate to gather on the traditional rutting stands where the males stake out their display areas by ‘groaning’ and scent marking. After about a month when the action is over, they disperse again. Muntjac deer are more solitary and are usually seen singly or in pairs. They originate from Asia and escaped from Woburn wildlife park. They are now widespread throughout the country.
Spring is also the best time of year to hear the abundant bird life as the birds go about the business of setting up territories and finding mates. In the woods listen out for the male great-spotted woodpeckers as they hammer away on resonant branches trying to attract a mate. There are good numbers of nuthatch, tree creepers and tawny owls as well as the smaller species such as goldcrest in the conifer plantations. If you are very lucky you may see a lesser-spotted woodpecker (which is not much bigger than a sparrow) or a firecrest.
The scrub habitats on the Ivinghoe hills are alive with bird life in the spring and summer. Many species of warbler and finch nest here, some returning each year all the way from Africa. You can find chiff chaff, willow warbler, blackcap, lesser whitethroat, linnet, bullfinch, yellowhammer, song thrush, and a whole lot more on a day’s birdwatching on the hills.
The hills are also a great place to see wild flowers: orchids, harebells, milkwort, horseshoe vetch, agrimony, salad burnet, and wild thyme to name just a few. These flowers support a rich variety of insect life, including many colourful butterflies. You can see green hairstreak, marbled white, small copper, dark green fritillary, small blue, and chalkhill blues in abundance. Ivinghoe is one of the few places nationally where you can spot the Duke of Burgundy – one of the rarest butterflies of all. There are also a good number of butterflies to be seen in the woods. You may be lucky and catch the spectacular courtship flight of the silver-washed fritillary whilst passing through a woodland clearing.
On a summer’s evening bats can be seen hunting over the meadow near the visitor centre. Bats roost in decaying trees and use a huge number of individual trees over a season, some for only a few nights and some for longer periods. The common and soprano pipistrelles, brown long-eared, noctule and Daubenton’s bats can all be found at Ashridge.
The extensive carpets of bluebells in the woods are one of the most spectacular sights at Ashridge, but there are plenty of other woodland flowers to search for in spring – look out for wild garlic, dog-violets, wood sorrel and lesser celandine.
There is no better time to visit the woods than during autumn when the trees are changing colour and there is a spectacular display of fungi – but we don’t recommend eating what you find unless you are an expert.
** – Walks – **
The NT often tell visitors that they can get the most out of Ashridge on foot. Whether you’re tackling their popular 17 mile boundary trail or just taking a stroll along Duncombe Terrace, the estate is a place of space, fresh air and freedom.
There are over 80 miles of designated footpaths and bridle paths for walkers wishing to plan their own route. For those who want a simple waymarked route, the ancient tree walk and the woodland walk both start and finish at the Bridgewater monument
** – Old Copse and Thunderdell Wood – **
This is a circular walk that takes you through areas of wildlife-rich woodlands and cross commons. Classified as Easy, the walk is approximately 3 miles long and should take about one and a half hours. It is dog friendly.
Start: Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre.
1. Stand with your back to the visitor centre. Follow the road to your left around the outside of the visitor centre, café and cottage and into the tree line. When the path forks take the right hand option which descends slightly downhill following markers for the Ashridge Estate Boundary Trail.
2. When the track forks again take the left option to continue ahead on a level, well-made path, still following the Boundary Trail. Continue like this for about ½ mile (800m) until you come to a junction in front of a telegraph pole.
Keep an eye out to your right as you follow this path as you will be treated to some splendid views across the valley and the village of Aldbury.
3. At the junction turn left passed Old Copse Lodge. Cross a hard-surfaced road onto a well-surfaced bridleway ahead of you. Continue straight ahead along this track for about ½ mile (800m), ignoring any cross paths. You will eventually arrive at the main road.
4. Cross over the road taking great care as it can be very busy. Once you have crossed you will fine yourself in a small pull-in car park. Behind the car park there are a number of paths. Take the bridleway which is the central and best-maintained option. It is identifiable as it runs between two notable banks. Continue along this path until you come to the corner of a field.
Lady's Walk. This distinctive path is particularly beautiful in summer and autumn as the ancient beech trees on the banks create a tunnel of dappled light and colour.
5. When you reach the corner of the field turn left following the footpath with the field to your right. The route deviates a little from the main paths so continue to follow the fence line around the field until you come to a hard-surfaced track.
6. Turn left onto the track and continue until you come to a junction with another surfaced road. Turn right onto this new road.
7. Follow this road until it crosses a broad, grassy avenue. This is Princes Riding. Turn left onto the avenue and walk towards the Bridgewater Monument which you will be able to see in the distance. Before reaching the Monument you will come to the old deer leap (some large sections of walk, fence and a ditch which were historically used to manage the deer in the park). Pass to the right of the leap and cross the road, taking care as it can be busy. Beyond the road follow Monument Drive to return to the visitor centre and car park.
When you turn onto Princes Riding don't forget to have a look behind you where you will see the majestic Ashridge House. This 19th-century Neo-Gothic building was the home of the Bridgewater and Brownlow families who owned Ashridge from 1604 until the 1920s.
End: Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre.
** – Duncombe Terrace walk – **
An very nice family walk along popular Duncombe Terrace with plenty to see along the way. Walk through the woodland onto open common with chalk downland in the distance. An easy-access walk with wildlife and wildflowers to enjoy. The range of habitats here means there’s plenty of wildlife (the estate is renowned for deer, butterflies and wildflowers). Bluebell displays in spring are superb and you can find lots of grassland flowers such as orchids in summer. Autumn is a great time to watch the deer rut and enjoy the colours as the leaves turn. Classified as Easy, the walk is 1.9 miles long and should take about 45 minutes to one hour. It has good access and is dog friendly.
Start: Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre.
1. Start at the visitor centre, near the Bridgewater Monument, cross the Green taking the path leading off the main track to the right - it has studposts at the entrance.
Duke of Bridgewater Monument. The Bridgewater Monument, which is built on the Chilterns plateau, towers over the surrounding countryside giving amazing views of the estate. It was built in 1832 to commemorate the third Duke of Bridgewater, a pioneer of 19th-century canal-building.
2. As you enter this woodland with its ancient trees, note that lots of the sycamores along the path have tar spot fungus (black marks) in late summer. This is a good indicator of unpolluted air. Also look for butterflies in sunny openings and, later in the year, fungi on tree boles. Look out for signs of badgers; their tracks can be seen in many places including holes in the ground called dung-pits or badger latrines. They are very clean creatures.
Ashridge Woods. Over 2,000 acres (810ha) of atmospheric mature woodland with lots of waymarked trails to explore. Get close to nature here, whether it's the mighty beech trees, fascinating fungi, fallow deer or birds such as nuthatch. If you're lucky, you might hear woodpeckers too.
3. As you walk over the wooden bridge glance down to see the ancient Drovers path, which was worn into a ditch by villagers taking their animals to graze on Pitstone Common. Continue to Moneybury Hill, so-called because of buried coins found here (it's prohibited to use metal detectors on National Trust land).
Animals, insects and birds. A wide variety of different species can be found on the Ashridge Estate, including the 'edible dormouse' (or Glis glis). It is a shy nocturnal animal so difficult to see. It is found almost exclusively in the Chilterns; they inhabit deciduous woodland on the estate. Ashridge is also a great place for invertebrates such as beetles and butterflies, but the most commonly seen wildlife are the fallow and muntjac deer.
4. Pass the mound on the left-hand side, which is called Bell Barrow (due to its shape). It's thought to be a Bronze Age burial mound. The wooden lodge further on, on the left is a copy of a Victorian shooting lodge that burned down in 1989.
5. On the right you will see a large log bench with lovely views of Pitstone Hill and Aldbury Nowers. Continuing along, note the hazel trees that have been coppiced (cut to ground level, then left to regrow) to provide a wildlife habitat. The fallen cedar seen here is still alive and growing. As you walk through the pine woodland between here and point 6, enjoy the smell of the conifers.
6. Emerge from the pine trees onto Clipper Down.
7. This is the end of the trail so, either turn around (this is also the turning point for mobility vehicles) and return by the same route, or continue for another mile to Ivinghoe Beacon for more wonderful views.
End: Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre.
** – Trail to Golden Valley – **
This 3.8 mile walk heads into the Golden Valley and takes in the view of Ashridge House. It tries to avoid the worst of the mud in winter although some may still stick to your boots. The walk is classified as Easy and although it is nearly four mile long it should take about one and a half hours. It is dog friendly.
Start: Ashridge Visitor Centre.
1. With your back to the visitor centre turn right down Monument Drive. Be careful as you cross over the B4506 and head around to the left of the deer leap (some large sections of fence and a ditch which were historically used to manage the deer in the park). Continue to follow this avenue, called Prince's Riding, all the way to the Ashridge House sign close to the fence in front of the House.
2. Follow the surfaced path to the right, around the golf course. At the end of the surfaced path, head around the left of the copse of trees in front of you, following the treeline until you come to a grass track . Follow this track along the boundary between the Ashridge House football fields and the wilder grass until you come to the tree-line in front of you.
Deer at Ashridge. You may see fallow deer in the area. Fallow deer were brought to Ashridge by the monks at the 13th Century monastery. Today the deer roam freely within the woodlands. The National Trust work to manage the numbers for the health of both the woodland and the herd.
3. Here leave the path that heads into the woods and go left along the tree line, down into the valley. Be careful as you cross the road and enter the Golden Valley on your right.
4. You can either go up to the seat in front of you for a view down both sides of the valley or continue straight down the valley away from the golf course.
Golden Valley. Golden Valley was designed by Capability Brown, the famous landscape architect, who worked on Ashridge's parkland c1760. His work was continued 50 years later by a student of his, Humphrey Repton.
5. Continue down the valley until you come to an avenue which crosses the valley at right angles, head up the steep side of the valley to your right until you join the road that crosses in front of Ashridge Business School.
Ashridge Business School (not NT) has a history spanning 800 years. It started its life as a monastery founded in 1283 to house a holy relic. Since then it has hosted two sets of Royals, been a hospital during both world wars and a finishing school for young ladies. Since 1958 it has been the home of Ashridge Business School.
6. Continue to follow this road in front of Ashridge Business School until you come to a right hand fork with no car access. Here head right following the purple ‘Bridgewater Monument and Visitor Centre’ sign past the car barrier.
7. Follow this path until you come to Thunderdell Lodge (a noticeable black and white chequerboard house). Be careful as you cross the road and turn directly right and follow the path along the edge of the road until you reach the bottom of
8. Finally follow the Drive back towards the Bridgewater Monument with the opposite view from the one at the beginning of your walk.
Deadwood. Did you know, 2,400 species of insect make their home inside hollow trees? We take extra care to ensure that the bugs and beasties can thrive at Ashridge, and this is why you will find deadwood (both standing and fallen) across the estate.
End: Ashridge Visitor Centre.
** – Ashridge Estate boundary trail walk – **
This walk includes some of the outstanding features of the estate, including Ivinghoe Beacon, ancient woodlands and dramatic scenery. A challenging walk through woodland and grasslands, you may see wild fallow and muntjac deer, so please keep dogs under control. Fallow deer roam in groups whilst muntjac tend to be solitary. The route is clearly marked with Boundary Trail circular, green signs. These each bear an arrow showing the direction in which to go. The walk is classified as Challenging, so not for the faint of heart. The walk is about sixteen miles and should take around seven hours; it is dog friendly.
Start: Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre by Bridgewater Monument.
1. Start at the Ashridge visitor centre, near the Bridgewater Monument. The visitor centre is on the left as you drive or walk up towards the Monument from the main road. Continue towards the Monument. Once there, take the path on the right, leading off the main track into the woods. You'll see a line of wooden stud posts across the start of this path. In late summer, note that many of the sycamores along the path have tar spot fungus (black marks) a good indicator of unpolluted air. Also look for butterflies in sunny clearings and signs of badgers. Their tracks are seen in many places, as are holes called dung-pits or badgers' latrines. Go forward over the wooden bridge which crosses an ancient drovers' path, worn down into a deep groove over the centuries by villagers taking their animals to graze on Pitstone Common. As you continue down the path, on your left is a mound called Bell Barrow due to its shape. It's thought to be a Bronze Age burial mound.
Shooting lodge. The wooden lodge, next on the left, is a replica of a Victorian shooting lodge that burned down in 1989. Further along on the right is a bench with views of Pitstone Hill and Aldbury Nowers. Note the hazel trees that have been coppiced to provide wildlife habitat. Nearby fallen cedar is still alive and growing. As you walk through the pine woodland between here and point 2, enjoy the smell of the conifers.
2. Follow the path, past a small cottage (Clipper Down Cottage) and go through a gate then downhill. Ignore the track on the left with the yellow arrow on the post. At the bottom of the slope, the path splits. You will see a sign for the Ashridge Boundary Trail. This is a green, circular sign on a post at the side of the path with an arrow showing the direction in which you should go. Follow the direction shown on the sign onto a rougher, downhill track.
Pitstone Hill. The path now passes through dense scrub which is inhabited by many types of birds. As you leave the scrub, on the left there are views to Pitstone Hill.
3. Where a wire fence joins the path from the left, continue straight ahead along it. Where the fence turns left, you should turn right. Follow the direction shown on the signpost for the Beacon onto a grassy path. Follow this path up the hill this part of the walk is quite steep.
Incombe Hole. On the left you can see the spectacular deep valley of Incombe Hole, a natural feature dating from the last Ice Age.
4. As the path flattens out, do not go through the gate or stile but instead follow signs for the Ridgeway and the Ashridge Boundary Trail. When the path splits, go through the 'tunnel' in the scrub with a yellow arrow sign at the start. When the path emerges on the other side of the scrub, you'll have a spectacular view towards Ivinghoe Beacon. Continue straight ahead, parallel to a fence on your right. Turn right through the gate and follow the track over the hill and down to the road. Take care crossing the road as the chalk is slippery and visibility is not very good. Take any path to the left up the slopes of Ivinghoe Beacon. There are several signs showing the way. The next part of the walk is quite steep.
Ivinghoe Beacon. The Beacon is one of the highest points on the estate with amazing views of surrounding countryside. It's the site of an iron age fort and beacons are still lit here on special occasions.
5. When you reach the stone plinth with a map of the Ridgeway, take the path to the right and continue through a gate. Do not go through the next gate you reach. Instead turn down the path to the right and through another gate, half way down. When you reach flat ground, there's a T-junction go right. Follow this path through a gate where it will start to climb uphill. You will come to another path after about two to three minutes, with signs for the Icknield Way. Turn left onto this path, which takes you through a wood and up a steep flight of steps.
Frithsden Beeches. On your left you pass Frithsden Beeches the trees here used to be coppiced. These coppices now play an important role in encouraging wildlife.
7. On the other side of the road is a footpath. Follow the path through the wood, alongside the golf course. You'll come to a gap in the fence with a path marked with a yellow sign. Do not go up this path. Instead, turn right and follow the line of the fence. As the fence bends to the left, you'll enter a narrow valley with steep sides. Carry on along the valley. At the far end, the trail crosses a road.
8. On the other side of the road, slightly to your right is another valley. Go down this valley. After crossing a stile, you reach a fence blocking the valley. Turn right and follow the direction shown on the green sign for the Boundary Trail. At the top of the slope, turn left alongside the fence. Cross a stile into a wooded area.
You have walked through Golden Valley, which was remodelled by landscape designer, 'Capability' Brown in the 1760s.
9. Continue to follow the path which turns right, then left. Carry on along the edge of a ploughed field and across a stile. After crossing a field, following the path in the grass, you will come to a gate. Go through the gate into a farmyard and through another gate immediately in front of you. Follow the path downhill. Before you go into the farmyard, look behind you for a spectacular view of Golden Valley and Ashridge House.
10. At the bottom of the slope is a road. Turn right onto the road. On your left is a path marked as the direction for the Boundary Trail. Follow this path uphill. As the path splits, go right in the direction shown for the Boundary Trail. You'll reach an alleyway between fences. Continue along this, crossing a road. At the end of the alleyway, turn right in the direction shown for the Boundary Trail. You're in Great Frithsden Copse, the European larch growing here is used in the estate's saw mill.
11. Follow the path, with the golf course on your left. Cross the road. On the other side, you need to cross the golf green. When you come to the first line of trees, which run parallel to the road you've just crossed, turn right along a rough path. Follow the path, going straight ahead (there are signs for the Ashridge Boundary Trail on some but not all of the posts). You'll come to a house (Great Coldharbour) on the left. Follow the path by the side of this house - there is a direction sign for the Boundary Trail.
12. Follow the path through a field and over a stile. Keep going along the edge of a ploughed field. The path bends to the left and goes downhill, then starts to climb. On your right is Spooky Wood which is owned by us and managed by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. In the centre of this wood is an area of rare chalk grassland, which provides an excellent environment for wild flowers, birds, butterflies and invertebrates.
Northchurch Common. The large open space is part of Northchurch Common. This area was dug up during the Second World War to grow food.
13. Just before a 'no trespassing' sign, there's a sign for the Ashridge Boundary Trail on the left. Follow this and go along the edge of the field. Go through a gate and follow the track to the right. Straight ahead on the left is a gap in the woods. You'll go through a farmyard. After this, there's a fence on each side of the track. Once past the fence, the track splits. Go along the right hand track. Go through the second of the two openings in the woods on the right. Follow the path and cross the road and walk down the track. When you reach a major track, follow the direction shown on the sign for the Ashridge Boundary Trail and turn left going downhill. At the bottom of the track follow the sign for the Ashridge Boundary Trail going right up a grassy slope. Be careful there are many tree roots you could trip over. After the path goes downhill, there's a post on the right with a sign pointing right. Follow this down the narrow path through the bracken. The path takes you to an open space. Go up the slope to your left. At the top of the slope, turn left. Continue along the main path, which twists. Ignore any turnings to the right or left. When you reach an open space, go diagonally to your left to an opening into a wooded area. On a post at the edge of the wood is a sign showing the direction of the boundary walk. The path bends to the right and at the end of the wood you are at the corner of a large open area. Follow the path here, which is marked with a sign for the Ashridge Boundary Trail. You reach a track. Go right and follow the signs for the Ashridge Boundary Trail.
14. You will come to a main road with a car park to your right and then a service road. Cross both roads. As you go along the track, there's a bench where you can sit to admire the views. Continue to follow the directions shown on the signs for the Ashridge Boundary Trail towards the Bridgewater Monument where you will complete the walk. Why not visit their shop and Exhibition Room or reward yourself with a cup of tea at the café?
In front of you is the Bridgewater monument - a 33m-high granite column built in 1832 to commemorate the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater's pioneering canal work.
End: Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre by Bridgewater Monument.
** – Battle of Berkhamsted Common Trail – **
In the mid nineteenth century the local landowner attempted to enclose Berkhamsted Common. What he hadn't taken into consideration was the determination of the local people to resist this move. This walk is classified as Moderate. It is either 1.9 or 4 miles long, depending on the route chosen, and will take between one and a half and three hours. It is dog friendly.
Start: Car park on the B4506.
1. This is a waymarked trail which starts from an information panel in the larger car park beside the B4506 just south of the Aldbury turning. From the panel exit the car park at the back left corner and follow a well defined path that skirts the edge of fields on your right. You will see, on your right, an old trackway, bordered by tree-lined banks. Tracks like these ran across all the Ashridge commons, allowing people and their animals to pass through without encroaching on the local grazing rights of the commoners.
2. Continue to follow the main path skirting the edge of the woodland. You can tell by the large number of silver birch trees in this area that you are now walking through a relatively young wood. Silver birch is one of the first trees to grow into open spaces. For the last 400 years much of Berkhamsted Common was dominated by gorsy-heath. The actions of local commoners, harvesting wood for their fires and grazing their animals on the common, kept the landscape open.
3. At Coldharbour Farm the route divides. To follow the short route turn left in front of the house. Pick up the trail again at step 5. To follow the longer route continue straight ahead on the footpath which passes in front of the farm and into the trees; where it forks veer right and head into fields, keeping to the right field margin. Coldharbour Farm dates from the time of the Coldharbour Enclosure in 1618. The distinctive semi-circular shape of the common was created at this time, when land in the centre was enclosed and then turned into farmland. Prior to this attempt at enclosure, there was a great deal of unrest in the early 1600s when the Lord of the Manor at that time attempted to enclose portions of the common, but spirited resistance by locals ensured that it remained open.
4. At the treeline continue ahead into the woods. When the trees thin out look for a crossroads and take the left turn. Follow this path back to fields and continue around the edge of the fields following signs as you go back into wooded cover. The extraction of clay, flint and chalk from the common goes back at least as far as the 1600s. This cottage, now known as Brick Kiln cottage and the kiln which used to be close by, were established by the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater in 1803 to supply clay bricks to help in re-building Ashridge House. Tensions arose between the estate and the commoners as he used so much gorse, from the common, to fire his kilns that there was little left for anyone else.
5. At the cottages follow a well established track behind the buildings and alongside a fence running around the field to your right. Woodyard Cottage stands on an old road which ran from Aldbury to Hemel Hempstead, along the edge of Berkhamsted Common. The road was obstructed by the 7th Earl of Bridgewater (1753 -1823), during the final years of his life, in an attempt to prevent commoners from exercising their rights on the common.
6. Follow this well defined path towards the road and turn left to return to the car park. The banks on either side of this path are the remains of the medieval park pale, which marked the original boundary between Ashridge deer park and Berkhamsted Common. Successive expansions of the park into the surrounding commons were also marked by banks which can still be seen as you walk through the Ashridge woods. There is little doubt that the attempted enclosure of 1866 sought to expand the park still further.
End: Car park on the B4506.
** – Visiting – **
Ancient trees, rolling chalk downlands and lush meadows in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Ashridge Estate is a 2,000 hectare (5,000 acres) area of the Chiltern Hills with beech and oak woodlands, commons and chalk downlands. These very different landscapes each support a rich variety of wildlife, including carpets of bluebells in spring, rare butterflies in summer and fallow deer that rut in autumn.
The best way to explore the Ashridge Estate is on foot or by bike. Miles of footpaths and bridleways give you plenty of space to explore, and if you drop into the National Trust visitor centre they will be happy to share their favourite routes with you. They also have mobility scooters if you aren't able to explore under your own steam.
** – Facilities – **
• Brownlow café - at visitor centre serving breakfasts, light lunches and afternoon teas.
• Outdoor seating only at Brownlow café.
• National Trust gift shop at the visitor centre.
• Free parking on the estate at Monument Drive and Ivinghoe Beacon (donations welcome).
• Toilets - at the visitor centre, including disabled toilet.
• You can picnic on the estate, though not in some sensitive areas. Please help us to look after these areas by taking your litter home with you.
• Dogs are welcome, but must be kept under close control at all times to avoid worrying wildlife. Please take any dog mess home with you.
• BBQ's are only permitted on Monument Drive and need to be raised off the ground to prevent fires. Disposable BBQs are not allowed.
• There are 200mm high speed bumps on our driveway and occasionally also pot holes. Please drive with great care and never at more than 10mph.
• There are many unfenced ponds on the estate, some of which are difficult to see because of plant overgrowth. Please supervise children closely and keep dogs on leads at all times.
• Baby-changing facilities at the visitor centre.
• Two routes starting near the visitor centre are accessible to pushchairs, including a circuit around the meadow and a woodland walk.
• Accessible parking - twelve accessible parking spaces, 50yds from the visitor centre.
• All-ability trails - three accessible routes starting near the visitor centre.
• Adapted toilet available.
• Pathways - smooth and flat tracks, to rougher routes and sloping natural terrain. Many routes can be slippery and muddy after wet weather.
• PMVs - Single-seater scooters and two-seater golf buggies are available to borrow from Easter weekend until mid-October, Mon-Sun, 12-4pm (last departure 3pm). Vehicles can be collected from just outside the Visitor Centre and can be borrowed for up to an hour, weather permitting. There is no charge, but they rely on donations to keep this service running. Due to limited availability, the NT do advise you to book in advance by calling the Visitor Centre. They cannot take bookings on the day over the phone or by email or at the weekends.
• Visitor centre - main entrance, exhibition room, study base and gift shop are all easily accessible on one level.
Location : Ashridge Estate, Moneybury Hill, Ringshall, Near Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, HP4 1LT
Transport: Tring (National Rail) taxi or 1.75 miles or 387 and 389. Bus routes: 29, 30 and 31 stop close to the end of Monument Drive. 387 and 389 stop in Aldbury village which is a ½ mile uphill walk.
Opening Times Estate: Dawn till Dusk.
Opening Times Visitor Centre: 10:00 to 17:00 daily.
Tickets Estate and Visitor Centre: Free.
Tickets Monument: Adults £2.50; Children £1.50.
Tel: 0144 2851227